Depeche Mode Information - Biography

There are a few bands so removed from, yet who have been such an influence on, the mainstream of music over the past two decades. This might seem a contradiction, yet while Depeche Mode have never courted celebrity fame, their music has found a deep resonance in popular culture.

Depeche Mode have always gone their own way, outsiders even despite a phenomenal popularity. But when artists as diverse as Derrick May, Air, Smashing Pumpkins, Tricky, Les Rhythms Digitales, Placebo, Primal Scream, Deep Dish and Todd Terry all quote Depeche Mode, you realise the recent story of popular music wouldn't have been quite the same without the band.

All this, however, started with a modest ambition - to make a single. The band, from Basildon in Essex, was formed by Vince Clarke, Andrew Fletcher, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore in 1980. Their name was taken from a French style magazine called Depeche Mode ['fast fashion'].

It was, perhaps, the one time when the band were part of a wider trend, with Depeche Mode acquiring a burgeoning club reputation in that immediate post-punk period. The band made their debut for Mute Records with 'Dreaming of Me', released in March 1981. Although it made only number 57 in the UK chart, the record was the start of a remarkable run of hit singles.

Depeche Mode were constantly touring during these early months, an unforeseen consequence of which was the band's first crisis. Vince Clarke, the primary songwriter, grew increasingly disenchanted with life in the road and, following the release of their first album, 'Speak and Spell', he quit the band.

It was a serendipitous moment for Depeche Mode. Martin Gore took over as the band's songwriter, thus signalling the emergence of an outstanding new talent. In the subsequent 17 years, Gore has proved to be among the greatest writers of his generation, responsible not only for a rich repertoire of enduring songs but also a remarkable number of hits.

By the time of Depeche Mode's second album, 'A Broken Frame', in the autumn of 1982, the band had acquired both a new member - Alan Wilder - and a new-found status as pop stars. Like all roles in Depeche Mode's history, however, the band didn't conform to the conventional pop stereotype. No teen band for instance would have ever created an album so seemingly accessibly yet so complex as 'Construction Time Again', released a year later in 1983. It was a pivotal moment in Depeche Mode's history, the first album in which the band had complete confidence in their own abilities.

There was another breakthrough in 1984, when the 'People Are People' single reached number 13 in America - Depeche Mode's first US hit. It was followed by the release of the 'Some Great Reward' album, which climbed to number 51 in the American chart - an early indicator of transatlantic success.

Depeche Mode were back on the road in 1986. The huge concert schedule corresponded with the release of the 'Black Celebration' album, which reached number three in the UK chart.

Over the next two years Depeche Mode became an international band, triggered by the release of the 'Music for the Masses' album in 1987. Although it reached only number 35 in the American chart, the album provided a huge catalyst for the band's US tours - Depeche Mode became the fulcrum for a burgeoning new alternative music culture.

It was almost fame by stealth, with the band playing to more people in America than had bought Depeche Mode records. On 18 June 1988, the band ended their US tour by appearing at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, in front of 75,000 people.

In 1989, 'Personal Jesus' became the biggest-selling 12-inch single in the history of the band's US label. That same year the band also embarked on the World Violation tour. Depeche Mode's fame was subsequently confirmed by the huge international success of the 'Violator' album in 1990.

It was followed by 'Songs of Faith & Devotion' in 1993. The album went to number one Britain and America, also topping the charts throughout continental Europe. Again, the band were on the road - seemingly for the rest of their lives - but the collective mental wipe-out that followed the 14 month Devotional world tour eventually led to Alan Wilder's departure from the band and a severe emotional battering for Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher. Indeed, for a time it seemed as though it was the end of the band.

Three years went by but, very slowly, the band began to re-build not only their personal lives, but also the future of Depeche Mode. The axis was the formidable writing talents of Martin Gore, whose new songs re-energised the collective ambition at the heart of the band.

Depeche Mode triumphantly returned in 1997, when 'Barrel Of A Gun' entered the UK  singles chart at number four. It was the highest first week's chart position in the band's 17 year history. There was one further single - 'It's No Good', a number five hit in Britain - before the release of the 'Ultra' album, which immediately topped charts around the world. Ample proof that the creative juices were still freely flowing.

This was also the start of a new chapter in the band's history, which sees Depeche Mode returning to the road in the  autumn of 1998 - their first tour in four years. The opening concerts correspond with the release of 'The Singles 1986>98', a companion to the first compilation of Depeche Mode hits in 1985.

If you add up the combined number of weeks the tracks on these two Singles albums were originally in the UK singles chart, it comes to a staggering four years: an achievement few other artists could even begin to rival. Then there are the albums, of course, which have sold in excess of 40 million copies around the world. Not bad for a band which originally just wanted to make a single.

[This biography is taken from the biography that appears in the VERY limited Singles 86-98 boxset PBXMUTEL5]

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